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Tournament Rules

These rules apply to tournaments at PokerStars. Those that relate to ring games only are available for viewing online here.

The Tournament Rules as listed here are intended to complement the Terms of Service, not replace them. In the event of a discrepancy between the Tournament Rules and Terms of Service, the Terms of Service shall take precedence.

Note: Rules 1.5, 2.4 and 2.5 are relevant only to tournaments which use blinds and/or a dealer button.

1. General

PokerStars will, at all times, consider the best interests of the game and fairness as the top priority in the decision-making process. Unusual circumstances can, on occasion, dictate that decisions in the interest of fairness take priority over the technical rules.


All tournaments will begin promptly at the scheduled time stated in the Tournament Lobby. PokerStars reserves the right to delay or cancel a tournament without prior notice.


Important information about each tournament, including the blind structure, length of rounds, rebuy and break information, can be found in the tournament lobby. PokerStars reserves the right to change the parameters of any tournament at any time without notice.


Seats are assigned at random. Seat changes are not permitted.


The button will be positioned at Seat 1 to start play.


A bet and three raises are permitted in Fixed Limit tournaments. There is no limit to the number of raises permitted in Pot Limit and No Limit tournaments.


Prizes will be awarded as stated in the Tournament Lobby, except when a deal is made (see Rule 8.1) or the tournament is cancelled (see PokerStars' tournament cancellation policy). Which prize structure is used depends on several factors including the number of entrants and the number of players per table. The prize structure is not finalized until registration has closed and the rebuy and/or add-on period is over.


In order to be eligible to rebuy in a rebuy tournament, you must have the funds available in your account. Players without sufficient funds remaining in their account will be eliminated from the tournament. Funds currently in play in other games, or held in a currency not matching the tournament currency are not considered to be available.


Late Registration: Late Registration is available in most tournaments. The length of the late registration period varies, but will always be shown in the tournament ticket of the Quick Seat lobby, in the details panel of the Tournaments tab, and in the header of the Tournament lobby for that tournament. Late registration time is measured in clock time (as opposed to tournament play time). For example, if a tournament starts at 09:00 and has 90 minutes of late registration, registration will close at 10:30. Late registration will close early if enough players are eliminated to begin payouts.

Please note that players are only allowed to participate in a tournament once, unless re-entry is permitted, as specified in the tournament lobby. One player using multiple accounts to enter multiple times into a single tournament is not permitted, and may result in penalties including a warning, disqualification from the tournament (with partial or full forfeiture of winnings), and barring from PokerStars.


Unregistration: Most tournaments allow unregistration until a few minutes before the event begins. The exact time at which unregistration closes is specified in the tournament lobby for each tournament, and may vary from event to event. Players who have won their seats through a satellite may unregister if the event allows it; however, they will receive tournament money (T-Money) or an entry ticket in exchange for their seat. T-Money can be used to buy in to other PokerStars tournaments. 

Note that some satellites will end after the start of the target tournament but during Extended Registration. In such cases, the satellite winners will be seated directly into the target event at the conclusion of the satellite.

Note: Registration and unregistration times may vary between tournaments of different types. Not all tournaments allow unregistration – such tournaments will usually be denoted at the time of registration. Check the tournament lobby for the exact registration details for each tournament. PokerStars reserves the right to alter registration and unregistration times without prior notice.

Players who self-exclude themselves during a tournament will nevertheless still be able to complete any tournament already in progress in which they are playing. This also means that players who request to be self-excluded from playing on PokerStars after qualifying for Day 2 of a Multi-Day Tournament or Phased tournament will still be able to play in that tournament on any subsequent day of that tournament, even after their period of self-exclusion begins. Players who choose not to play on subsequent days will receive no compensation.

2. Eliminations

The tournament ends when one player accumulates all the chips in play, or in some tournaments, when all remaining players will receive the same prize (for example, if the tournament awards 5 identical prizes, the tournament may end when there are 5 players left).


If two or more players are eliminated on the same hand, a player with more chips at the start of the hand finishes higher than a player with fewer chips. If all players started the hand with an identical number of chips, all players tie for that rank, and any prizes due to those players will be equally distributed between them. During hand-for-hand play (as described in rule 2.3), two or more players eliminated during a single 'synchronized' hand are treated as having been eliminated simultaneously, even if they are at different tables.


At certain stages of the tournament (for example, where the prize money jumps significantly with the next few players eliminated) and when there is more than one table remaining, the tournament may be played ‘hand for hand’. This means that if one table finishes its hand before the other table(s), that table waits for the other table(s) to finish before the next hand is dealt. During this hand for hand period, all eliminations during a ‘synchronized’ hand (even at different tables) are treated as having happened simultaneously, for purposes of determining finish order. Finishing order is then based on comparing stack sizes per rule 2.2, and not on who lost their chips earlier.


PokerStars uses a ‘forward-moving button’ rule in its tournaments. According to this rule, no player ever receives the button twice in a row; at the completion of every hand, the button is moved clockwise. The implication of this rule is that when players are eliminated, there may be players who get a reprieve from one or both blinds. Since these are basically random occurrences, no player will receive any long-term advantage, and the rule is necessarily fair for all players.


When two players remain at the final table, the button will post the small blind, and act first on the opening round.


As players are eliminated from the tournament, the software will “break” tables to fill available empty seats. The re-seating of players at broken tables is performed randomly and, although rare, may result in a player having to post multiple big blinds in a row. On occasion, the software may balance tables to ensure all tables have an equal (or as close to equal as possible) number of active players. Players moved individually to balance tables will, when possible, be moved to similar positions relative to the blinds. When enough players have been eliminated, all players are brought together at the ‘final table’.

3. Breaks

The break schedule for a tournament can be found in the tournament lobby. Players are encouraged to study the break schedule for each tournament they wish to play, as break length and timing may vary from one event to the next. PokerStars offers two varieties of breaks:

  1. Tournaments with synchronized breaks will go on break at 55 minutes past the hour. For example, a tournament which begins at 07:25 will go on break at 07:55, 08:55, 09:55 and every hour thereafter until the tournament ends.

    Tournaments of this type can be identified by the phrase ‘There is a 5 minute break every 55 minutes past the hour', found in the ‘Tournament Information’ section of the ‘Structure’ tab in the Tournament lobby.

    There can also be tournaments where the synchronized break only takes place every two hours. In these tournaments, the tournament information panel on the ‘Structure’ tab will read “There is a 5 minute break at 55 minutes past every other hour”. For example, a tournament like this, starting at 08:35, could go on break 08:55, 10:55, and every other hour thereafter.

    In rebuy tournaments of this type where add-ons are permitted, there will be an additional short break (usually 3 minutes) at the conclusion of the rebuy period, to allow for add-ons to be made.
  2. Other tournaments will go on break at regular intervals throughout play. For example, a tournament beginning at 07:25 may go on break after every hour’s play, in which case the first break would begin at 08:25.

In all cases, the tournament will wait for hands at all tables to complete before the break period begins. This means that at some tables, the break will last slightly longer than at other tables.

Note that not all tournaments offer breaks (for example, Hyper-Turbo and some Heads-Up or Shootout-style events).

4. Disconnects and Sitting Out

By participating in a tournament, a player accepts the risk of Internet disconnection, due to problems with the connection between their computer and the servers, lag or freeze or some other problem in the player's computer or the Internet.

  1. PokerStars does not accept any responsibility for a player disconnect except in the case of a server crash.
  2. While each user is responsible for his or her own Internet connection, PokerStars makes an effort to protect players who are disconnected during the final stages of a real money tournament, by allowing extra time to reconnect. The rules for activating Disconnect Extra Time (DET) are outlined here.
  3. If a player times out during a hand, whether connected or disconnected, his or her hand will be folded if facing action, or may be checked if facing no action.
  4. If a player is not connected before a hand starts, he or she will be dealt cards, and a blind and/or antes will be posted. There is no rule against a single player choosing to sit out; the player doing so will continue to have blinds and antes posted and cards dealt. Two or more players may not make any agreement to sit out simultaneously, whether at the same table or different tables.
  5. In Shootout and Heads-Up events, if all players at a table are disconnected and / or sitting out for a large number of hands (typically 250 hands or more in real money tournaments), the match will end and the player with the most chips will advance to the next round.
5. Chat

Players, whether in the hand or not, may not discuss the hands until the action is complete. Players are obligated to protect the other players in the tournament at all times. Discussing cards discarded or hand possibilities is not allowed. A penalty may be given for discussion of hands during play.

Note: The purpose of this rule is to protect the interests of players who are still in the tournament but not in the current hand. Please see our Prohibited Tournament Chat examples for further information. More specifically, this rule does not apply to situations where only two players remain in a tournament, or the tournament began as a Heads-Up match.

6. Unethical Play

Poker is an individual (not a team) game. Any action or chat intended to help another player is unethical and is prohibited. Unethical play, such as soft-play (playing less aggressively against a partner) and chip dumping (intentionally losing chips to a partner), may result in penalties, including seizure of funds from the offender's account and/or termination of the account. PokerStars routinely reviews game play to look for violations of our rules and to ensure the integrity of our games. It may be necessary to withhold player winnings until the completion of game play reviews.


With some exceptions (described below), a player may play on only one account during a tournament and may not ‘hand off’ his seat in mid-event to a different player. Violation of this rule may result in penalties including a warning, disqualification from the tournament (with partial or full forfeiture of winnings), and barring from PokerStars. 

Examples of permissible exceptions that we give below are intended to describe examples of unplanned but serious events which are beyond your control.

Examples of things which are not beyond your control and therefore prohibited include:

  1. Going to bed and letting someone else finish the tournament.
  2. Entering a tournament then getting on an airplane, or embarking on any other pre-planned trip, while asking a friend to play your account while you change location.
  3. Deciding that it would be fun to finish the Sunday Million at Joe's house then asking Joe to take over your account, while you make the 30-minute trip to his house.
  4. You and a friend are playing in the same tournament. You agree that if he busts out before you do, he will take over playing your account.
  5. Your husband is out of town for the weekend, but gives you his password. You log into both his account and yours and play both accounts in the same tournament.
  6. You have progressed to the final few tables of a tournament and somebody offers you cash equity for your seat. You allow the other player to sign into your account, or you continue to finish the tournament following the explicit instructions given by him.
    Examples of things which are beyond your control and therefore allowed, subject to PokerStars being able to corroborate with evidence, include:
    1. A thunderstorm strikes your location and takes the power down for the surrounding area, so you call a friend to take over your account while you make alternative arrangements.
    2. Your child is taken ill and you have to attend hospital, so you call a friend to take over your account.
    3. You are playing in a tournament and lose internet access in your home due to a failure of your ISP. You call a friend and he takes over while you make alternative arrangements.
7. Server Issues

In the event of a server crash, the hands in progress at every table will be restored by rolling back those hands. Each player's chip count will be reset to the amount at the beginning of the hand. In special circumstances, when a tournament needs to be cancelled because of a crash or some other reason, players will be compensated according to PokerStars' tournament cancellation policy.

8. Deal Making

Deal making is allowed in PokerStars tournaments, unless otherwise specified in the tournament lobby.

  1. If all remaining players in a tournament agree to split the prize money according to a formula of their choosing, PokerStars will accept this agreement, and alter the originally published tourney payouts to reflect the numbers agreed to in the deal.
  2. If all players remaining wish to make a deal, they should check the ‘Discuss A Deal’ box in the ‘Info’ tab of the Chat Box on the table. When all remaining players have checked this box, the table will automatically pause at the end of the current hand, and PokerStars’ customer support team will be notified. A PokerStars staff member will come to the table to ensure a smoothly arranged deal. PokerStars cannot guarantee that a staff member will arrive in a timely fashion although every effort will be made to avoid delays.
  3. Deal making is not available in all tournaments, but when deal making is available the ‘Discuss A Deal’ checkbox will be available in the ‘Info’ tab at the final table.
  4. PokerStars will not participate in the deal making process, but will serve as a facilitator to ensure that everyone is in complete agreement before executing the transfers per the above conditions.
  5. PokerStars reserves the right to require that any deal leave some money ‘on the table’ as the first place prize. This money required to be left in play will usually not be more than 5% of the total tournament prize pool, and ensures the integrity of the tournament's finish. The amount of money required to be left in play, if any, will usually be specified in the tournament lobby message.
  6. Players may agree to leave more money ‘on the table’ for first or for other finishes.
  7. It is the players' responsibility to determine total agreement. In the absence of oversight at the table by PokerStars support personnel, chat records alone will not necessarily validate an agreement. However, PokerStars may enforce a deal if it was clearly agreed to by all parties.
  8. Only players at the final table may deal for the money, and all deals must include all remaining players.
  9. Deals will only be enforced for real money tournaments.
  10. Players may discuss any deal they wish. If the players request it, PokerStars staff will provide ICM, Chip Count or Even Split numbers to the players as possible deals.
    • ICM is the ‘Independent Chip Model’, a method of calculating each player’s equity in the remaining prize pool, based on the chip counts, the remaining payouts (less any money ‘on the table’), and the likelihood of each player winning each remaining prize in the tournament. This is the default method which will be offered to players.
    • Chip Count is a distribution of remaining prizes (less any money ‘on the table’) based solely on chip counts.
    • An Even Split divides the remaining prizes (less any money ‘on the table’) to all players.
    All deal numbers provided by PokerStars staff are not final until clearly agreed to by all players in Chat. Players may discuss variations on those numbers if they want; PokerStars staff will then repeat the agreed deal in Chat and ask the remaining players to all confirm their agreement.
  11. Players are obligated to play out their heads-up matches in a normal way, regardless of the identity of their opponent. Any 'flipping', chip dumping, or other activity classified as ‘abnormal’ game play is prohibited. Violation of this rule may result in penalties up to and including barring from PokerStars with forfeiture of funds. This rule does not apply to the final match of a scheduled heads-up tournament.

Dealing for Tournament Leader Board or Sit & Go Leader Board points is not allowed. Doing so may result in the revocation of all awarded Leader Board points for the deal-making players in the tournament.

9. Bounties

In some specially designated tournaments, a cash ‘bounty’ will be placed on some or all of the tournament participants. A player who eliminates such an opponent wins the cash bounty.

There are three types of Bounty Tournament:

Knockout: A bounty is placed on every entrant. You win a cash prize for each opponent you eliminate. There are also Progressive Knockouts, where your bonus increases as you eliminate players.

Team Pro Bounty: A bounty is placed on every member of Team PokerStars Pro who enters the tournament.

Fixed Bounty: A bounty is placed on a specific player in the tournament.

The bounty is awarded to the player who wins the ‘relevant pot’ for the hand in question, which may be the main pot or one of several side pots. ‘Relevant pot’ means the pot in which the bounty player was all-in for their final chips.

  • For example:
    Daniel (100 chips), Barry (200 chips), Vanessa (400 chips), and Jake (1000 chips), are playing a hand in a No-Limit tournament.

    Daniel moves all-in, and Barry, Vanessa and Jake call. The pot which Daniel is eligible for is known as the ‘main pot’. Betting continues ‘on the side’, in side pot 1.

    Barry moves all-in, and Vanessa and Jake call. Betting continues between Vanessa and Jake in side pot 2.

    Vanessa moves all-in, and Jake calls.

    Barry shows the best hand. He wins side pot 1 and the main pot, eliminating Daniel. He receives the bounty for Daniel.

    Jake shows the next best hand, and wins side pot 2, eliminating Vanessa. Jake wins the bounty for Vanessa.

    Note that although Barry had the best hand overall, he didn’t have as many chips as Vanessa and therefore could not eliminate her. Jake however did have enough chips, and therefore wins Vanessa’s bounty.

In a split pot poker variant, such as Omaha Hi/Lo or Stud Hi/Lo, the bounty will always be awarded to the high hand. This is because a player cannot be eliminated by a low hand only.


In the event that two players show identical winning hands and therefore split the ‘relevant pot’ (or, in the case of a split pot poker variant as described in rule 9.2, split the high half of the ‘relevant pot’), any bounty awarded will be divided equally between the winners. Odd cents will be awarded in turn to the players in the earliest positions.


If a bounty player wins the tournament:

  1. In a Knockout tournament, the player is awarded their own bounty.
  2. In a Team Pro or Fixed Bounty tournament in which the Team Pro or Fixed Bounty player wins, the bounty is not awarded.

If a tournament advertises a bounty on a particular player, but that player does not register for the tournament, no bounty will be paid for that player.


Players may not make any agreement amongst themselves to eliminate a particular player in order to claim their bounty award. Such agreements are considered collusion, and are grounds for disqualification from the tournament or other penalties. For more information, see rules 6.1 and 6.2 above, and our page about Prohibited Tournament Chat.

 In case of disputes, PokerStars’ management decision will be final.